President Bush on the Legal Opinions Behind Torture

President and Mrs. Bush appeared on Larry King Live the other night on CNN, where he continued to deny that the U.S. has engaged in torture, and in the process admitted that legal memos were used to legalize what otherwise would have been considered illegal. Excerpts from the transcript are below.

KING: Do you think — or do you get hurt when a Colin Powell comes out and says things like we shouldn’t torture and we should close Guantanamo?

G. BUSH: No, I don’t get hurt, because we don’t torture.

KING: So does it hurt you that Colin, who worked for you, is saying that?

G. BUSH: I don’t think he said George Bush has tortured. I can’t remember his quote. But I’m comfortable with what we did and know it was necessary to protect the country.

KING: So there’s nothing you’ve done in the area of treatment of prisoners that causes you any kind of pause?

G. BUSH: No. No. Everything we did was — you know, it had legal — legal opinions behind it. Look, you’re sitting there, you’ve captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He’s the guy that ordered the September the 11th attacks. And we want to know what he knows in order to protect the United States of America. And I got legal opinions that said whatever we’re going to do is legal. And my job is to protect you, Larry. And I’ve given it my all. I’ve given it my all.

KING: Apparently, one of the first things the Obama administration is going to do, apparently, is close Guantanamo. It’s not going to happen overnight, but they’re going to issue the order. What do you think of that?

G.BUSH: I think they’re going to have some very difficult choices to make.

KING: That’s the wrong choice?

G. BUSH: I didn’t say it was wrong. I said — I said we were going to try to close Guantanamo, too. And…

KING: What’s the problem?

G. BUSH: The problem is you’ve got a bunch of cold-blooded killers down there that, if they ever get out, they’re going to come and kill Americans. And I’d hate to be the person that made that decision.

KING: But at one time you wanted to close it?

G. BUSH: I still want to. I still want to have a procedure where people, you know, have their day in court and — but it’s got to be done under the right circumstances. These are illegal combatants. These aren’t people who wear a uniform. These are cold-blooded killers. And in order to convict some, we’re going to have to — they’re going to have to use some very sensitive intelligence. And it’s very important that that intelligence be — be safeguarded in a proper fashion.Look, we don’t want… …our intelligence secrets out there for everybody to look at it. There is still an enemy that wants to strike us, Larry. And, therefore, it’s important to have the tools and the intelligence necessary to protect the American people.

(CNN LARRY KING LIVE, Interview with President and Mrs. George W. Bush, Aired January 13, 2009 – 21:00 ET)

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Published on January 15, 2009

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